Thinking of starting a new business? Expanding the business you already run? Introducing a new product or service? Wouldn't it be nice to have a good idea of how successful you'll be before you even start? That's the moneymaking edge that smart market research can give you.
You've probably heard that market research is expensive — a business luxury only big companies can afford. That's partly true. Even a relatively modest research program can eat up several hundred thousand dollars in a hurry. However market research doesn't have to be so complicated that only expensive consultants can figure it out.
Here are some very simple, do–it–yourself ideas and tools for getting a pretty good idea of where you stand — before you shell out big bucks for marketing and advertising.
You want your questions to be carefully written so that they do not confuse or suggest "correct" answers to the respondent. Here are some general guidelines:
- Make sure your questions are clear and easily understood.
- Keep questions short. People in a hurry won't take time to understand a long and unclear question.
- Questions must be in sync with the purpose of the research. If the question is irrelevant to what the survey is trying to study, leave it out.
- Don't ask questions that can be broken down into two or more questions. For example, "Do you think the mayor is dishonest and a poor financial planner?" That is really two different questions. Be wary when the word "and" appears in a question.
- Stay away from biased words. For example, "Do you eat a healthy breakfast or just grab a soda and a doughnut for the road?" The word "just" prejudices the answer by suggesting that the soda and doughnut are less worthy than the healthy breakfast.
- Avoid leading questions. "Like most New Yorkers, do you drink coffee every morning?" Watch for a hidden premise showing up in questions. Remember the goal is accurately to determine what the respondent thinks — even if it isn't what you wish they would say. The purpose of research is to find out which of your ideas are wrong.
- Leave out questions that require very detailed answers.
- Avoid questions that may embarrass the respondent. Many people don't like to give their age, and most won't tell you how much money they earn. A better way is to give the respondent a broad category that they can identify with without giving away sensitive information. "Are you between 18–24 years old, 25–49 years old?" Additionally, research carries with it a certain authority that will make your ideas more persuasive to others.